Did You Know?
Scotland's national flag is believed to be the oldest national flag in Europe.
The flag of Scotland is an azure blue rectangle, with a cross in the shape of an 'X' dividing the flag into four equal blue triangles. The 'X' is also called a saltire. The dimensions of the flag are not fixed, and various manufacturers may employ 1:2, 2:3, 3:5, or even 4:5 ratios.
The color white in the Scottish flag symbolizes peace, whereas blue symbolizes the virtues of justice, vigilance, and perseverance.
The flag of Scotland is also known as the saltire or St. Andrew's Cross. Saint Andrew, mostly known as Andrew the Apostle outside Scotland, was a Christian apostle who was crucified in the city of Patras in Achaea. The cross used in his martyrdom was not the shape of the crucifix used by Christianity, but rather in the shape of an 'X'.
Unlike the flag of England, which is an unofficial national flag, the flag of Scotland is passed by the Scottish government as the official national flag of Scotland. The flag is flown on Scottish government buildings, except on days when flying the Union Jack is mandatory in the United Kingdom; then the saltire is lowered and the Union Jack is raised for a day. The flag also represents Scotland in various avenues such as in Scottish divisions of the British Army and in various sports. Cricket and football are two major sports where Scotland and England participate independently, and in both, the flag of Scotland is used by the Scottish team instead of the flag of the Union.
The flag used to have varying shades of blue as the background, ranging from sky blue to navy blue. The exact shade of the blue to be used in the Scottish flag was determined in 2003, and the shade chosen was Pantone 300 (#0065BD in hexagonal web color codes). This is lighter than the blue used in the Union Jack.
St. Andrew was made Scotland's patron saint in 832 CE. Angus (Oengus), King of the Picts, one of the Celtic tribes in Scotland, ventured out into battle against the Saxons under the command of Athelstan. On the eve of the battle, King Angus prayed for divine help from St. Andrew, and made a vow that he would make St. Andrew the patron saint of Scotland if he won. On the day of the battle, Angus's army saw a saltire-shaped cloud formation in the sky. The saltire is a representation of the cross on which St. Andrew was crucified. This raised the morale of Angus and his Pict soldiers, and they overcame a numeric inferiority to win the battle.
True to his word, King Angus made Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland, and incorporated St. Andrew's Cross as the national flag of Scotland. The blue background in the flag represents the sky in its original sense, though different connotations were attached to the colors later on.
Apart from this legend, the historical evidence for the use of the saltire as a flag can be traced back to the 15th century CE, though at that time, it was merely one of the flags raised by the Scots. It had been in use on seals and other such symbols of Scotland earlier, but its use as the national flag of Scotland probably started in the 16th century CE.